Palestine had for centuries had a small Jewish enclave surrounded by an overwhelming Arab majority. This was changed by the collapse of Jewish life in Eastern Europe during the latter half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, which led to an extensive emigration to Palestine. By the turn of the century, Jews constituted 10 percent of Palestine’s population, and when the British mandate expired 40 percent. In May 1948, the new state had about 650,000 Jewish residents.
Until then, immigrants had mainly come from Eastern Europe, but for a few years after the state’s proclamation, immigration from the Arab world was contemplating; A total of 900,000 Jews were forced to leave the Arab world from 1948 until the beginning of the 1970s. This immigration is now practically completed, and immigration from Western Europe and the United States is relatively modest (a few thousand people annually, see Digopaul.com).
After the Iranian revolution in 1979, nearly 30,000 Jews moved from there to Israel. In the 1990s, nearly 800,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union immigrated. This immigration has also continued in recent years, with an additional 170,000 people until 2010. Also from Ethiopia, 40,000 individuals moved in during the 1990s; an occupation that continued in the 2000s with more than 3,000 people annually. In connection with the economic crisis in Argentina in the years around the turn of the millennium, quite extensive emigration from there occurred, but it has since subsided. Since the 1990s there has been a small immigration of so-called Ben谷 Menash谷 Jews from northeastern India with a few hundred people per year.
According to Countryaah, Israel has an average population density of 428 residents per km2, but most live on the coastal plain. In 2008, 76 percent of the population were Jews and 20 percent were Arabs. In the occupied areas, 1.5 million Arabs and 100,000 Jews live. About 3/4 of the Jewish and nearly 2/3 of the non-Jewish population is between Ashqelon and Nahariya. The Negev desert in the south is almost uninhabited.
In 2019, 91 percent of the population lived in cities, half of them in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa. The population is young (28 percent is under 15).
For information on life expectancy and other demographic statistics, see Country facts.
- AllCityPopulation: Find Israel demographics including latest population, life expectancy, age structure, and urbanization.
Official languages in Israel are Hebrew and Arabic. Among the Jews, a number of languages still live from their respective countries of origin, even though 80% say they use Hebrew everyday. The spoken Arabic in Israel and the occupied territories are of hadaric type and belong to the Syrian dialect group. In Negev, most Bedouins speak badawi dialect. TV broadcasts programs in Hebrew and Arabic and regular radio broadcasts take place on eg. Hebrew, Arabic, English, French, Russian, Yiddish and Georgian.
Of Israel’s population, 77% are Jewish, about 19% Arab, and about 2.1% Christian. The other approximately 1.9% are mainly druses and church boxes (2009). The Declaration of Independence of 1948 states, that the State of Israel guarantees complete social and political equality for all its citizens regardless of religion, race or gender. It maintains religious freedom and protects in its territory the sacred places of all religions. Israel is a parliamentary democracy but, at the same time, characterizes itself as a “Jewish” state by be open to immigration of all Jews who so desire.
Relations between the state and the Jewish majority religion are regulated by a series of laws, but these are not enshrined in a constitution. In 1947, the leading Mapai Party and the Jewish-religious parties (Mizrahi and Agudat Israel) agreed to renounce a constitution that would establish the relationship between the secular state and the Jewish religious right (halakha). Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, objected to a constitution, including because he wanted to prevent the religious right from infringing on the sovereign right of parliament, the Knesset. The representatives of the religious parties could just as easily imagine a constitution that circumvents the validity of traditional Judaism in any area of society. The agreement meant that the Knesset alone enacts laws but leaves it to the religious authorities to interpret civil law so as to conform to traditional halakha. More recently, attempts have been made to find a clearer boundary between state and religion. Since none of the major political blocs (the Labor Party or Likud) alone managed to achieve a majority in the Knesset, For example, the religious parties (with a total of about 15-20% of the mandate) have become the tongue on the balance and have been able to form coalitions – first with the Labor Party and then with Likud. As a result, their representatives have generally gained control of the Ministry of Religion, often also of the ministries of social and home affairs, and have been able to exert a decisive influence on the legislation. Under the Ministry of Religion, all religious communities registered in Israel obey. All recognized religious communities have internal self-government with their own religious right.
Judaism’s role as a dominant religion appears, among other things. of the fact that Sabbaths and holidays apply as national rest days and that ritual proper food (kashrut) is served at state institutions. One sign of the influence of religion is that religious schools are also maintained by the state. State religious courts have been set up; their approval is needed i.e. for entering and dissolving marriage between Jews. Civil marriages cannot be entered into Israel but are registered as such if entered into outside of Israel. The highest Halakhic body is the upper rabbinate, led by an Ashkenazic and a Sephardic upper rabbinate – both representing Orthodox Judaism. Local justice is handled by the state rabbis, religious councils and rabbinical courts. For the population register, the Knesset 1970 defined that “Jew” means a person born of a Jewish mother or converted to Judaism and who does not belong to another religion.
The State of Israel both expects and receives support from Judaism throughout the world, from both individuals and communities. But through traditional Orthodox control of religious law, other Jewish directions, such as Reform Judaism and Conservative Judaism, which are strong in the United States, do not have equal opportunities to establish themselves in the country. Although they have several dozen synagogues and other institutions in the country, they are not recognized by the Ministry of Religion as legitimate forms of Judaism and thus stand outside the entire state-sanctioned system. For example, they will not in the enjoyment of state financial aid.
About 20% of Israel’s Jewish population follows traditional halakha, while 60% combines it with personal preferences and ethnic traditions. The remainder is largely non-observant. Most Orthodox view the state of Israel as a preparation for the coming of the Messiah – as “the beginning of our emerging salvation” as it is called in the prayer for the state. These vote either on Mafdal (National Religious Party, a successor to Mizrahi) or on any other religious or non-religious party and actively participate in the political life of Israel. Among the religious are also ultra-Orthodox (haredi), who strictly adhere to halakha. A minority of these (Naturai map) do not recognize the state of Israel, as they believe that a Jewish state can be formed only after the arrival of the Messiah; a larger group of ultra-Orthodox (politically organized in Agudat Israel and some other religious parties) now participates in politics with the aim of strengthening the Jewish-religious character of the state. Most ultra-Orthodox men and all ultra-Orthodox women are exempt from military service, which has been subject to growing criticism.
Islam is the largest minority religion in Israel. The vast majority are Sunni Muslims. The history of the Muslims in the country goes back to the 640s, when the Caliph Umar conquered the country from the Byzantines. Muslim supremacy prevailed in the country until 1917 – with the exception of the Crusades during the 12th and 13th centuries. The two major mosques on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (Umarm Mosque or the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque) were built shortly before and after the year 700. They have since been the foremost Muslim shrines in the country.
The Muslims have their own state-maintained courts that handle Muslim law (Arabic Sharia) for entering into marriage, teaching religion, observing Muslim holidays, etc.
Christianity has existed in the country from New Testament times. Initially, it was mainly Jewish Christians in the aftermath of the apostles, but from the 300s, the pagan Christian communities that emerged in the Mediterranean began to establish themselves in the country. Christian (Roman Catholic) kingship was here during the Crusade.
Of the Christians, 42% belong to the Greek-Catholic Church, 32% to the Greek Orthodox, 16% to the Roman Catholic (1998). In addition, Maronites, Armenians, Syrian Orthodox, Copts, Protestants, etc. In the city of Nazareth, half of the population is Christian. About 90% of Christians are Arabic speaking. The different communities have their own churches, monasteries and other institutions but share eg. the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Each registered church community has its own internal court order.
The traditional Christian communities in Israel are non-missionary. Exceptions are some Protestant churches or groups, which have a mission among Jews on their program. In particular, ultra-Orthodox Jews have reacted; From time to time there have been tangible attacks on institutions that carry out or are suspected of carrying out missions. Israeli legislation has circumvented such activities that aim to persuade someone to convert to another religion. A bill aimed at completely banning non-Jewish missions was presented in 1997 but was withdrawn two years later.
The Druzes include the third largest minority religion. The Drusian religion arose from the split of Islam in the early 1000s and is largely secret. The Drusians are mostly settled in the Galilee and on the Golan Heights. Those who live in Galilee have a positive relationship with the state and fulfill, for example. Israeli military service.
Since the vast majority of Muslims and Christians come from the Arab population of the country, the political tension between Jews and Arabs adversely affects the relationship between the various faith communities. More recently, attempts have been made to activate the religious dialogue between Jews, Christians and Muslims.